Thursday, December 27, 2012

Movie Review: Whatcha Wearin’? (2012)

Grade: B

Whatcha  Wearin’—a naughty, adults-only romantic comedy from Korea—answers one of the fundamental questions of modern life: With all the technology standing between them, how can two people go about making a real, human connection?

After all, this movie’s lead couple doesn’t meet in one of the time-tested ways you might expect: there’s no blind date or longing glances across the office. Instead, their meet-cute happens over the telephone, when Yoon-jeong misdials her boyfriend’s number and unwittingly has an extremely racy exchange with a stranger. Horrified, she hangs up as soon as she realizes her mistake—but not before leaving quite an impression on Hyeon-seung, the recipient of her call.

A series of candid phone conversations follows, during which the two share the most private and blush-worthy details of their lives and loves. Starting a relationship without meeting in person actually sets them free—when they’re talking, Yoon-jeong and Hyeon-seung can be their unvarnished selves and voice their most intimate thoughts without worrying about the consequences. Fostered by the anonymous nature of their relationship, their no-holds-barred friendship quickly becomes an important part of their lives.

Played with low-key charm by Ji Seong (TV’s The Great Seer) and Kim Ah-joong (drama Sign), the leads connect on a number of levels. Both are frustrated artists—Yoon-jeong is a design hopeful who specializes in revealing lingerie, and Hyeon-seung is a wannabe musician stuck in a day job he hates. There’s also the issue of their significant others. Yoon-jeong awaits a proposal from a wandering boyfriend, while Hyeon-seung is nursing a broken heart after seeing his beloved ex-girlfriend with another man.

In spite of spending almost half the movie apart, the actors manage to build zingy chemistry. When their characters finally meet, the sparks are instantaneous—but not without complications. Their outside relationships are certainly an obstacle, but so is learning how to be together in the flesh. The movie’s most memorable scene finds the leads on opposite sides of a bed, facing the room’s walls and talking to each other through their phones rather than turning around and communicating face to face.

Set in an upscale but believably realistic urban universe, Whatcha  Wearin’ is a sex comedy that gets its laughs from the bawdy discussions of its characters. Not for the faint of heart, it doesn’t shy away from discussing (and showing) the physical aspects of romantic relationships in vivid detail. Although its American release will be unrated, in Korea Whatcha Wearin’ is restricted to audiences over 19. Full of boob shots, discussions of penis size, and steamy bed scenes, it’s easy to see why. (It seems likely that the audition process required a lot of lusty moaning and the scratching out of no-nudity clauses in contracts.)

Playfully edited and crisply shot, this is a modern take on the age-old story of girl-meets-boy that takes a refreshingly graphic approach to sex and love. (And happens to be obsessed with underwear.)


Korean release date: December 6, 2012
Running time: 154 minutes
Direction: Byun Sung-Hyun
Screenplay: Byun Sung-Hyun , Kim Min-soo-I
Starring: Ji Seong, Kim Ah-joong, Shin So-yul, Kang Kyeong-joon, Kim Seong-oh, Jeong Soo-yeong

For more information, visit the official website (Korean only)


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas Wish List, Drama-Style

Dear Drama Overlords,

I have been a very good girl this year: I stood by your side through good and bad (or, in this case, Big), never letting a day pass by without telling someone about your glorious works (whether they wanted to hear it or not). I have kept my Drama Fever membership active, spent countless hours relishing your online community, and even bought a drama on DVD.

If it’s not too much to ask, I would like to submit my Christmas wish list to you instead of that guy at the North Pole. (I learned the hard way last year that his subbing work is always subpar—everything seems to translate into “Ho, ho, ho.”)

Here, then, are the gifts I’d like from you this year.

Pay your employees. Sure, it’s important for businesses to make money, but it’s also important for them to do so in an ethical, honest way. No matter how creative your bookkeeping is, there’s no denying the fact that the writers, actors, and production staff who make dramas happen work hard for you and deserve not only the financial compensation promised to them, but also your respect.

Be sure that Flower Boy Next Door is amazing. Ideally, I would like to describe it as follows: “Almost painfully charming, FBND is funny and goofy-sweet but not without serious insights and complex characterizations. The chemistry is hot enough for roasting marshmallows, and for once the female lead in romantic comedy isn’t a total idiot: Go Dok Mi may be awkward and shy, but she’s also capable and clever.”

Let the second lead get the girl. Not always, or even often, but sometimes. It’s only natural that we viewers gravitate toward second leads: they’re supportive and kind and treat their female leads like queens. I think part of the problem here is that the chemistry between actors can be unpredictable—who knew, for example, that in I Miss You Yoon Eun Hye would steam up the screen with a boy almost ten years her junior? But she did, and you should have adjusted the show’s script to take advantage of it, instead of sticking with the same old long-lost-childhood-love plotline you clearly charted before production even began. You’re writing these shows as they air, so why not take advantage of it to work with the organic growth of the project?

Bring A Wife’s Credentials to English-speaking audiences. This show finished airing in April, but it’s still not available subbed anywhere online—even your official site has never gotten past episode 10. I get the sense that your lighter, more youthful output is more successful on the Internet, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t international viewers who would be interested in watching a sophisticated exploration of real-world adult relationships. Instead? We get Dream High 2, subbed hours after airing. Thanks for nothing, Overlords.

Be original. 2012 will go down in history as the year of the time-traveling Kdrama: Padam Padam, Operation Proposal, Rooftop Prince, Queen In-hyun’s Man, Dr. Jin, and Faith all used this supernatural trope to varying degrees of success. As far as I’m concerned, one of your greatest strengths is the ability to take something old and threadbare and make it seem new. But must you spend so much time honing this skill? Think outside the box—there’s a whole world out there waiting for you to write about it, a world where romances can happen without piggyback rides and chaebol princes sometimes fall in love with chaebol princesses, not hardworking everygirls. Don’t let yourself get in too much of a rut, on either the micro or macro levels.

Bring on the Rory Gilmores and Temperance Brennans. When you showcase a smart girl, she’s usually a bad guy (e.g., Playful Kiss) or spends all her time apologizing for being smart (e.g., Lie to Me). I’ve heard about your grueling educational environment—brains are clearly something you value. So how about letting a female lead have some for a change?

Find Gong Yoo a decent role in a good drama. I certainly can’t fault your taste in leading men; your shows are to handsome guys what Fort Knox is to gold. But you don’t always act in the best interest of the actors or even the dramas they’re starring in. Case in point? The hot mess that was Big, which had more Gong Yoo than you can shake a stick at, but utterly wasted him in a morass of spineless drivel. Make it up to us this year by giving Gong Yoo a showcase to remember—something that lets him be funny and lovable but also brings out depths of character that have been hidden since his days in Coffee Prince. (While you’re at it, maybe you should try casting Hyun Bin, fresh from the military and the stain on television history that was Secret Garden, as something other than Pee Wee Herman’s long-lost Korean brother.)

Be real. Fairy-tale dramas are fun to watch, whether they’re swoonily romantic or tearily melodramatic, but without some degree of realism they lose their emotional impact. Shows with a real-life vibe were in sadly short supply this year, a situation I hope you don’t plan to repeat. Remember that naturalistic doesn’t necessarily mean boring—dramas like Shut Up: Flower Boy Band and Answer Me, 1997 managed to be sensational and realistic all at once.

Thanks for a great year of television, Overlords. It has been a funny, sad, sweet, silly, romantic (and bromantic) good time. Here’s for an even better year to come.


With much love,

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Drama Review: The Thousandth Man (2012)

Grade: C+

Supernatural romance sitcom; 16 half-hour episodes

What it’s about
Gu Mi Jin is a nine-tailed fox who lives in human form with her newly human mother and sister. Like so many other Kdrama heroines, she’s desperate for love, but she’s got bigger plans for her soulmate than couples rings: she’ll die in three months if she doesn’t eat the liver of her thousandth man. Naturally, not just any guy will do, so she's on the prowl for “the one.”

First impression
My first-ever drama short is proving to be a goofy, upbeat romp with the added bonus of an intriguing central concept. It’s light as air, but not necessarily in a bad way.

Final verdict
Episodic and insubstantial, The Thousandth Man brings the mythical gumiho into the modern urban world, surrounding its family of foxes with spas and playgrounds and the petty concerns of humans. There’s little otherworldly magic about them, and being a gumiho seems to largely involve superhuman speed and the ability to spontaneously turn into a femme fatale, suddenly sprouting a pleather catsuit, glamorous red fingernails, and a smoky eye suitable for a night out on the town.

Like most Korean sitcoms I’ve seen, The Thousandth Man’s production values aren’t especially different from straight-up Kdramas. There’s no laugh track and it looks like every other show on the air. But in addition to shorter episode running times, it seems that most Korean sitcoms feature lots of characters, each with a little snippet of story that’s only explored on a superficial, comedic level. Even the impending death of this show’s heroine is mostly played for madcap laughs rather than the angsty tears that would be inevitable in a drama version of this story.

There are moments of sophistication here, notably seen in Gu Mi Jin’s appreciation of how much the people, geography, and language of Korea have changed in her thousand-year life. Unlike our current crop of time-travel dramas, The Thousandth Man acknowledges how fundamentally different everything in the world has become, “changing more in the past 90 years than it did in the past 900,” as one character puts it. The show even goes so far as to make Gu Mi Jin’s Joseon-era journal utterly uninteligable to people who haven’t specifically studied old Korean. The story also touches on another gumiho who’s so jaded and tired of living in the world she’s not even sure she wants to live on as a human. (In my dream drama retelling of this story, she’d be the lead.)

On the other hand, the show’s mythology could have used more development: It never manages to explain how the gumiho family has managed to live for so long without anyone noticing that they don’t age. It also never really clarifies what becoming a human means for a gumiho. When they eat that final liver, do they start the clock ticking on a normal human lifespan? Could they have babies? Do they lose their eyeshadowed alter egos? And what’s the big deal about becoming a human anyway, when the only drawback of being a gumiho is a taste for organ meats and nine lovely (but easily concealed) tails?

The Thousandth Man also suffers from a frustratingly naive and uninteresting female lead. She refuses to eat the liver of any man who doesn’t love her and volunteer to be consumed, but the show leaves her almost totally out of the transaction. Her emotions and motivations—beyond whatever starry-eyed Joseon chick-lit she read growing up—are at best glossed over. What must it be like to make someone love you and then kill them, genuinely believing it’s the noble thing to do? Dull emotions are shown as one of the side-effects of gumiho-hood, but for me this isn’t sufficient to explain away the serious issues surrounding the female lead’s diet.

Far more compelling than Gu Mi Jin are her boy-crazy, former-fox sister and their pragmatic mother, who loves and wants the best for her girls, just like moms everywhere. These two get less screen time, but they still manage to be the most memorable thing about the show. Also high on the fun-o-meter are a series of Joseon flashbacks that show Gu Mi Jin and her sister as girls.

For someone who’s drawn to romantic comedies, I suspect The Thousandth Man would be a fun twist on the standard plotline. For melo-obsessed me, it was like a plate of salad to a gumiho: I could get it down, but it wasn’t what I really wanted.

Random thoughts
Episode 2. Did Anna Nicole Smith teach us nothing? The obvious answer here is to find some old, practically dead guy who will be so happy to hook up with a hot girl that he’ll give her anything—including his liver. Or, failing that, meeting Sisyphus, who could have donated all thousand livers himself.

Episode 4. I hope the female lead’s wardrobe isn’t an indication that 80s fashions are coming back into style. I already spent one decade dressed like Stacy from the Babysitters Club, and it was more than enough.

Episode 4. Isn’t the cute basketball player a little young for the lead's sister? 985 years is a pretty significant age difference for a noona romance, after all.

Episode 4. On what planet does it make sense to only eat the livers of good guys who are willing to die for love? Wouldn’t a thoughtful gumiho exclusively eat bad-guy liver, Dexter-style? I guess this show's lead is looking to Darwin out the sweet portion of Korea’s male population. Pity, because as Song Joon Ki knows all too well, there just aren't enough nice guys in this world.

Episode 7. The thousandth sign that I watch too much Kdrama? I’m starting to recognize where things were filmed. And I don’t mean, “Oh, look...there’s Namsan Tower!” It’s more like “I think I know that shrub.” Case in point: the male lead’s house in this drama was also used to film I'm Sorry, I Love You.

Watch it

You might also like
My Girlfriend is a Gumiho, for its cute and funny gumiho shenanigans

The episodic romances of Twelve Men in a Year

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Everything I Need to Know, I Learned from Korean Drama

Rocking it Hermione style since 2011

Ramen will make your face puffy. (But it’s worth it.)

Noble idiocy is the fourth leading cause of death in Korea, after cancer, dangerous intersections, and constipation.

In spite of a global population skewed toward females, every relationship begins as a love triangle between two men and one woman.

If there’s a pool, someone will almost drown in it.

If there’s a glass of water, it will be thrown in someone’s face.

No matter where you go or what you do, your first love will find you. (Especially if you met as children and were then tragically separated. Then there’s really no escape.)

Brooding is best done in the shower.

Prosecutor Princess: I feel your pain, Park Shi Hoo, but I’d rather feel your abs.

The primary purpose of flower pots is hitting people on the head. The secondary purpose of flower pots is potting flowers.

Most “off” buttons on cell phones don’t actually work; to be sure no calls come through, you must remove the phone’s battery.

Twenty is the new sixteen.

After dark, it’s fine to drink your body weight in soju. Drinking as much as a sip before the sun sets, though, is an indication of a serious drinking problem.

Tying your head-towel in the most complicated way possible is key to fitting in at the sauna.

Gravity in Korea has a very special property not seen in other nations: any falling human being will inevitably fall onto the lips of another human being.

There are two kinds of noribang singers: the laughably bad and the Kpop-idol good.

Protect the Boss: Exhibits A and B.

Approximately one third of all Koreans own their own department store or upscale hotel. The other two-thirds make a living by delivering milk and sewing on doll’s eyes.

A meal without rice is not a meal.

Always insist on a blood test before the wedding. Odds are in the upper 40 percent range that your husband-to-be is also your brother.

In Korea, it’s impossible to leave your house without seeing a dramatic public declaration of love.

The state of a person’s lips is an important indicator of their well-being. Shiny lips means they’re about to be kissed. Pale lips mean they’re sick. Pale and cracked lips mean they’re dying.

No blind date in the history of the world has ever resulted in marriage.

If someone says “You’re not making trouble, are you?,” say yes. If you’re talking to an American, they’ll assume that you’re making trouble and are therefore fun to be around. If it’s a Korean, they’ll assume that you’re not making trouble and are therefore a valuable member of society.

The smaller your face, the more attractive you are. (Say Korea and Beetlejuice.)

Never give shoes to someone you like, or you’ll have to spend the next three episodes talking about how you shouldn’t have given shoes to someone you like.

Forehead kisses are PG-13.

Boys over Flowers: “Are you crazy, Ji Hoo? There are children here.”

Have a bad day? No problem. Just go to the hospital for an IV drip of some nameless fluid, no questions asked, no reasons given.

Korea is comprised of three locations: Seoul, Busan, and Jeju.

Your forehead is the second most logical place to crack the shell of your hardboiled egg. (Your friend’s forehead is the first most logical.)

Nosebleeds mean certain death or tragic overwork.

All Koreans have giant framed photos of themselves on hand at all times, just in case they die suddenly.

Two classes of people use mini-vans: Celebrities and kidnappers.

Flawless skin is only as far away as the nearest paper face mask and sliced cucumber. (Unfortunately, that’s very far.)

Adding “yo” at the end will solve all your problems.

Hospitalized people are very easily confused, which is why “hospital” should always be written on their clothes in at least one language.

At any given moment, most of Korea’s adult population is studying abroad.

The best kimchi comes from unrefrigerated jars stored in the backyard.

Fermentation Family: “Let me get this straight.
We’re going to eat produce that has been out here how long?”

The ultimate signs of true love are: unsolicited sharing of earbuds, straightening of discarded shoes, and couples pajamas.

In every story, there’s a second lead. Don’t be it.

If you’re good, hardworking, and kind, you will always win in the end. Or die.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Drama Review: Equator Man (2012)

Grade: B

Revenge melodrama

What it’s about
A young man’s quest for answers in the wake of his father’s murder results in fourteen years of melodramatic secrets, lies, and double-crosses for him and three of his high school friends.

First impression
Poky and pretentious, this kimchi opera suffers from an intrusive soundtrack and lacks narrative flow—it’s just one heavy-handed, bombastic conversation after another, with no real connective tissue or character development deeper than close-ups of the actors making maudlin faces. Also, it beggars belief again and again, even judging on a Kdrama-scale of improbability. (I’ll accept Joseon scholars time-traveling to modern Seoul; I won’t accept a scrawny teenager single-handedly beating up a gang of thugs as if he’s Batman.) I’ll keep with it for a while, though—it’s hard to judge a show based on the first episode, especially when that episode focuses exclusively on backstory and child actors. Also, Lee Hyun Woo is definitely my new jailbait love; I won’t be leaving until his character grows up.

Final verdict
I was prepared from the beginning to dislike Equator Man. Like most dramas that replace youthful actors with adults early on in their runs, its first few episodes felt overstuffed and confusing. Its likeable cast and promisingly soapy premise weren’t enough to overcome this problem, not to mention the show’s cheesy direction and distracting soundtrack.

But in spite of this shaky start, Equator Man settled into a reasonably satisfying potboiler about the perils of greed and revenge and the power of friendship. In a lot of ways, it feels like an old-fashioned counterpart to this fall’s younger-skewing Nice Guy: its conflicted, flawed characters confront the worst in themselves as they suffer through a litany of melodrama tropes—birth secrets, hidden identities, long lost first loves, terminal illnesses, corporate shenanigans, and the evil machinations of mustache-twirling bad guys. 

Thanks to a compelling cast and serviceable (if holy) plot filled with books, art, and a moving bromance gone terribly, terribly wrong, this drama is a juicy, uncomplicated soap opera that’s just right for rainy day viewing. (If not for deep thought or lasting reflection.)

Random thoughts
Episode 1. It’s always bizarre to come across Western oldies used in Korean dramas, and I’ve had a run of it lately. First, Billy Joel’s “The Stranger” was used as the male lead’s leitmotif in I’m Sorry, I Love You, and now Equator Man is all about Eric Clapton’s “Layla.” At least the former fit the drama conceptually—on the other hand, “Layla” is a classic love-triangle song, but not a single woman has appeared on screen at this point. [Just you wait, Amanda.—Amanda.]

Episode 2. Handy that these cops are total idiots, because anyone who’s ever read or seen an older detective story knows that typewriters are often traceable. As are the fingerprints he just got all over the note. ::sigh::

Episode 6. So in addition to being physically tone deaf, this show’s music director is also metaphorically tone deaf. To him or her, it probably seemed like a clever idea to take a bunch of blind people into the woods to listen to Stevie Wonder songs. To the rest of us, not so much.

Episode 7. Once you get past some initial bumps, this show isn’t all that bad. What is bad is its overblown soundtrack. A character flushes the toilet? Better set it to a soaring orchestral piece suitable for the sinking of the Titanic. Someone takes a drink of soju? That calls for a solo piano rendition of “Moon River.” The lead stubs his toe? A melodramatic riff on the “Layla” baseline is just what the moment needs. Or not.

Episode 7. For someone who’s spent ages in a coma, this dude’s recovery is amazingly painless: on day one he’s running around gnashing his teeth and punching walls. Wouldn’t some physical therapy be in order? After all, while he was unconscious he grew like ten inches and turned from a boy to a man. Funny how selective melodramas can be about what to be melodramatic about.

Episode 9. I’m always waking up in the middle of the night with big ideas I want to write down, but the results of my lightless scribblings usually look more like abstract art projects than words. So how is it that this blind character is able to write a perfectly legible letter? He’s fighting even bigger odds than I do: writing English using cursive, I barely have to take my pen off the paper. Korean, in contrast, is all about lines and circles and their relationships to each other. How could you manage that without being able to see? (Random note: it turns out that Korean actually does have a cursive form. Not that it would make that much of a difference when trying to write in the dark.) 

Episode 14. Uhm Tae Wong, you are a delicious hunk of masculinity in a world of dainty flower boys. High definition isn’t your friend, though—is that your face or the surface of the moon? (If it’s any consolation, I’m reading a smutty American novel called Bared to You right now, and you’re number two on my casting list for its male lead, Gideon Cross. [Sorry, but Lee Joon Ki seems unlikely to give up first place. You may have the magnetism, but he’s got the cheekbones.].)

Episode 20. And the worst finale of the year award goes to...Equator Man! (And that’s saying something, in a year that saw the exercise in futility that was Big.) Everything after the 15-minute mark feels useless and drawn out to fill time. Let’s just pretend that the show ended with the two boys outside to hospital, shall we?

Watch it

You might also like
Nice Guy’s melodramatic story of damaged characters seeking revenge

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Movie Review: A Werewolf Boy (2012)

Grade: A-

A Werewolf Boy is no Twilight.

I mean that in the best way possible—in spite of the comparisons you may read elsewhere, Korea’s lycanthropic yarn is no easy wish-fulfillment love story. In truth, it shares more DNA with Frankenstein or Edward Scissorhands, those classic, bittersweet explorations of what happens when feral innocence meets the jaded experience of the modern world.

A hit that has spent more than five weeks on top of the Korean box office, Werewolf Boy is a study in contrasts—storybook and reality, past and present, wild and tame. Its tone is matter-of-fact and everyday, but tinged with a nostalgic, fairytale glow that bears the faintest resemblance to the work of Tim Burton.

One thing that’s probably sold a lot of this movie’s tickets is its star: heartthrob Song Joon Ki, whose celebrated KBS drama Nice Guy finished airing just last month. Song, always a scene stealer, ably brings to life the titular wolf in spite of remaining silent throughout almost the entire film. He uses his body and eyes to tell the character’s story instead of words, and transforms into a guileless, unspoiled human with all the tendencies of a wolf. (Or maybe it’s the other way around?)

But as fun as it is to see flower-boy Song Joon Ki playing fetch like the family dog, this movie is really the story of his master, a sickly young woman named Suni (Park Bo Yeong), whose family moves to the countryside on the orders of her doctor. As in every great creature feature, they find more than they expect there: the family is quickly swept up in the dark history of their new home with the discovery of a dirty, starving boy running wild on the property.

Awkward and isolated, Suni is a girl desperately in need of a friend. And that’s exactly what she gets when her softhearted mother decides to care for the strange boy until local officials can find a home for him. Christened Chul Soo, the name Suni’s parents had intended for the son that never arrived, he needs Suni just as much as she needs him—he doesn’t know how to speak or wash, and he eats with the single-minded, violent abandon of an animal.

Suni slowly domesticates Chul Soo with the help of a long-forgotten dog training manual, earning his eternal devotion in the process. The chaste, not-quite-romance that develops between them is tender and heartbreaking: He sleeps like a guard dog outside her bedroom door; she stands in the path of a bullet for him.

Sweet and sad, cute and funny, A Werewolf Boy tells the story of two damaged people coming together in spite of the misgivings of the world around them. It’s an old-fashioned monster movie that knows the truth—the real abomination isn’t the mysterious, super-strong boy with no blood type and a body temperature of 115 degrees. Instead, it’s the society that reacts to someone who’s different with fear and cruelty.

We first meet Suni as a seemingly contented grandmother who’s hiding a hole in her heart. That’s how we say goodbye to her, too, but in the intervening scenes she’s learned important lesson: Even over the course of a human lifetime, some things can never be lost, like beauty. And love.


A Werewolf Boy is now playing in select theaters throughout North America (according to some sources, complete with a never-before-seen alternate ending). For more information, see the official site.

Reviewed for (Thank you, Susan!)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Drama Review: Fated to Love You (2008)

Grade: B-

Taiwanese romantic comedy

What it’s about
After the most ridiculous case of mistaken identity in drama history, an average office girl finds herself pregnant with the tenth-generation heir of a cleaning-product empire. With the help of their colorful families, the two decide to get married—but must then navigate the eighteen episodes of tribulations that stand between them and their happy ending.

First impression
As of episode 1, Fated to Love You embodies all three Cs of Asian rom-coms of a certain vintage: cheaply produced, cheesy, and charming. It reminds me of Kdramas from the early 2000s—its creators may not have had a lot to work with, but they made the most of what they had.

Final verdict
It’s fitting that this show’s female lead spends a lot of time worrying about being a “sticky note girl”: someone common, disposable, and too eager to please. Ultimately, this description is a perfect fit for both her character and Fated to Love You itself. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, though—sometimes you want to watch television for easy, uncomplicated laughs, not to marvel at spectacular production values or deep insight into the human condition. When you’re in that kind of mood, you could definitely do worse than this silly story of finding love in unexpected places.

For a drama that’s so long—it’s twenty-four episodes, many of which clock in at over ninety minutes—Fated to Love You is zippy and entertaining. It’s populated by over-the-top characters and crazily improbable plot twists that are made bearable by the fact that the show never takes itself too seriously. Big-hearted and puppyish, it uses its central romance to explore the culture clash between the plain-Jane female lead’s country-bumpkin family and the father of her unborn child, a refined city dweller with more money than he knows what to do with.

Tiresome plot machinations do derail things a bit toward the end (a dead cell phone battery keeps the leads apart for a full episode), but most of the story manages constant forward momentum—which is more than I can say for many Korean dramas these days. Kdramas seem to get bogged down in their concepts, which makes their stories feel hide-bound and repetitive. Take this spring’s similarly themed I Do, I Do: the only narrative tension it could drum up was in the form of corporate wrangling, because it had so very little to say about its central concept beyond “She’s pregnant with a younger man’s child.” This aspect of the plot never went anywhere until the absolute last minute—it was the show’s hook, and to lose or move beyond that hook would be unthinkable for a Kdrama. In contrast, at Fated to Love You’s heart is a plot that breathes and grows and stretches; it moves freely from place to place and idea to idea. It’s a story about two characters and their relationships, not about a scenario that’s easy to hang a marketing strategy on.

Cute, cartoony, and averse to logic in all its forms, Fated to Love You is by no means well made. But it’s sincere and its goofy antics made me laugh out loud an embarrassing number of times. After all, what’s not to like about a sticky note?

Random thoughts
Episode 8. This entire drama, summed up in one line of dialogue: “I admit I was shocked by your chicken suit.”

Episode 18. I still can’t get over how different Taiwanese drama is from Kdrama. Case in point? The male lead just went to a brothel and made a scene when he realized none of the prostitutes reminded him of the female lead. It played a little less sleazy than it reads, but good golly is that upsetting. I miss Kdrama and its appealingly puritanical ways.

Episode 20

Dear Taiwan: 

The next time you decide to save money by putting your male lead in the same pair of pants for 90 percent of a drama, consider choosing something less flashy than the zipper-heavy trousers in this show. It makes it pretty easy to spot that you saved your budget for the girls’ clothes. 

Sincerely, Amanda

Watch it

You might also like
Taiwanese drama Aumun’s Concerto, for a melo take on an unplanned pregnancy leading to love

Pregnancy-themed Kdrama I Do, I Do (although I didn’t) 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Korean Phrasebook for Drama Lovers Abroad

Welcome to Korea!
hangug e osin geos-eul hwan-yeonghabnida! / 
한국에 오신 것을 환영합니다!

Like every international addict of K-entertainment, I’ve wondered what it would be like to go to Korea. In the unlikely event that the opportunity ever presents itself, I thought it might be advisable to create a personal phrasebook of things I’ll probably need to say.

With the help of Google translate, I give you the following essentials.*


Will you take a picture of me standing in front of the sign?
dangsin-eun naegagiho ap-e seo ui sajin han jang jjig-eo jullaeyo?
당신은 내가 기호 앞에 서의 사진 한 장 찍어 줄래요?

Let’s pretend that we’re in a drama. You be the guy and chase me down the concourse.
ui uliga deulama e iss-eoyo igo . dangsin-eun geu salam ieoyahamyeo gwangjang naelyeo gasin.
의 우리가 드라마에 있어요이고. 당신은 그 사람이어야하며 광장 내려 가신.

Wait, are you really from security?
jamkkanman yo, dangsin-eun boan eseo jeongmal ingayo?
잠깐만 요, 당신은 보안에서입니까?

Oh. My passport?
o. nae yeogwon-eun?
. 내 여권은?

I’d rather not. It’s not a flattering picture.
anhaneun geos-i ohilyeo naa. i acheom sajin anibnida.
안하는 것이 오히려 나아. 이 아첨 사진 아닙니다.

Yes, I am from America.
, 미국에서 왔어요.
ne, migug eseo wass-eoyo.

Do I really need to call the embassy?
jeongmal daesagwan-e jeonhwa haeyahabnikka?
정말 대사관에 전화해야합니까?


Can I have a room where they filmed a drama?
geu salamdeul-ideulamaleul chwal-yeongbang-eul hal su issseubnikka?
그 사람들이 드라마를 촬영 방을 할 수 있습니까?

I have to pay how much extra to sleep on the floor?
naneun badag-e jam-eul eolmana chuga biyong-eul jibul haeyahabnikka?
나는 바닥에 잠을 얼마나 추가 비용을 지불해야합니까?

Whatever, it’s worth it. I’ll take the Korean-style room.
geuleolmanhan gachiga mwodeungan-e. jeoneun hangug jeog-in seutail-ui gaegsil eul deulibnida.
, 그럴만한 가치가 뭐든간에. 저는 한국적인 스타일의 객실을드립니다.

Wait! The bathroom is Western, right?
jamkkanman yo! yogsil-eun oleunjjog, seoyang ibnikka?
잠깐만 요! 욕실은 오른쪽, 서양입니까?


How spicy are your spicy rice cakes?
gwihaui maeun tteog eun eolmana maeun ibnikka?
귀하의 매운 떡은 얼마나 매운입니까?

Do you have anything on the menu that isn’t spicy?
dangsin-eun maeun anin menyueseo mwolhaeyahaneun geoji?
당신은 매운 아닌 메뉴에서 뭘해야하는 거지?

Like...American not spicy?
machi ... migug an maeun?
마치 ... 미국 안 매운?

No, that’s too spicy. Way too spicy!
ani, geugeon neomu maewoyo ibnida. neomu maeun wei !
아니, 그건 너무 매워요입니다. 너무 매운 웨이!

Maybe something you would serve to children?
ama museun il-i dangsin-i aideul-ege bongsa kkayo?
아마 무슨 일이 당신이 아이들에게 봉사까요?

mas-issneun / 맛있는


No, nothing with intestines please. Definitely no liver or lungs.
ani, changja wa amu jusigi balabnida eobs-seubnida. mullon deo gan ina pye.
아니, 창자와 아무 주시기 바랍니다 없습니다. 물론 더 간이나 폐.

If I drink too much soju, will you piggyback me back to the hotel?
naega neomu soju leul masil gyeong-u, hotello jeoleul dasi hajagu su issseubnikka?
내가 너무 소주를 마실 경우, 호텔로 저를 다시 하자구 수 있습니까?

No, I don’t see any winners of the World’s Strongest Man Contest around here.
아니, 난이 주변 세계 최강의 남자 대회의 수상자가 표시되지 않습니다.
ani, nan i jubyeon segye choegang-ui namja daehoe ui susangja ga pyosidoeji anhseubnida.

Fine. Will you call me a cab then?
joh-ayo. na ege taegsileul han hu jeonhwa hae jusil geojyo?
좋아요. 나에게 택시를 한 후 전화 해 주실 거죠?


What region are your DVDs?
gwihaui DVDneun eotteon jiyeog ibnikka?
귀하의 DVD는 어떤 지역입니까?

Could I buy a replica of Piggy Bunny here?
yeogi kkochdwaeji tokki ui bogjeleul gu-ibhal su issnayo?
여기 꽃돼지 토끼의 복제를 구입할 수 있나요?

Do you sell clothes for fat people?
dangsin-eun ttungttunghan salamdeul eul-wihan os eul panmaehago issseubnikka?
당신은 뚱뚱한 사람들을위한 옷을 판매하고 있습니까?

Like...American fat?
geuleonikka ... migug-ui jibang-eul?
그러니까 ... 미국의 지방을?

I don’t think you carry my size.
nae keugileul gajigo saeng-gaghaji anh-ayo.
내 크기를 가지고 생각하지 않아요.

I’ll take that hair tie, please. It seems to be the only thing here that would fit me.
geu meoli negtai halgeyo , jebal. na e ttag majneun yeogiseo yuilhan geos gatseubnida.
그 머리 넥타이 할게요, 제발. 나에 딱 맞는 여기서 유일한 것 같습니다.


I don’t like being naked in front of strangers.
nan nachseon salam ap-e beolgeo beos-eun geol joh-ahaji anh-a.
난 낯선 사람 앞에 벌거 벗은 걸 좋아하지 않아.

That giant tub is just like in the Harry Potter books! 
geu geodaehan yogjohaeli poteo chaeg cheoleom doeeo issseubnida! 
그 거대한 욕조 해리 포터 책처럼되어 있습니다!

If you don’t put chlorine in there, how do you kill the bacteria?
geogie yeomsoleul neoh-eo haji anhneun gyeong-u , dangsin-eun bagtelialeul jug-igessseubnikka?
 거기에 염소를 넣어하지 않는 경우, 당신은 박테리아를 죽이겠습니까?

You don’t know me, but would you please scrub my back?
dangsin-eun nal moleujiman, nae jjog-eul ssisneun sigess-eoyo?
당신은 날 모르지만, 내 쪽을 씻는 시겠어요?

Can we order in noodles?
ulineun gugsu e jumunhaedo doelkkayo?
우리는 국수에 주문해도 될까요?

“Psst...what’s going on with your towel?”
"jamkkanman ... museun sugeon ege museun il-i ?"
"잠깐만 ... 무슨 수건에게 무슨 일이?"


Do you have an extra-large uniform?
dangsin-eun teug daehyeong yunipom-eul haeyahabnikka?
당신은 특 대형 유니폼을해야합니까?

Can I wear my street clothes, then?
geuleom, nae geoli os-eul ibgo hal su issseubnikka?
그럼, 내 거리 옷을 입고 할 수 있습니까?

Where do they sell those hard-boiled eggs?
eodi geu hadeu salm-eun dalgyal eul panmaehago issseubnikka?
어디 그 하드 삶은 달걀을 판매하고 있습니까?

How do you get the towel to stay on your head like that?
eotteohge tawol geuleon sig-eulo meoli e iss-eulgeoya?
어떻게 타월 그런 식으로 머리에있을거야?

How often do they wash these pillow things?
eolmana jaju salamdeul i begae mulgeon-eul ssis-eo habnikka?
얼마나 자주 사람들이 베개 물건을 씻어합니까?


Do you know where Gong Yoo lives? I won’t bother him. Just stare respectfully and think happy thoughts.
dangsin-eun gong yu i eodi saneunji ani? geu salam-eul gwichanhgehaji anh-eulgeoya. geunyang jeongjunghi eungsi hago haengboghan saeng-gag-eul saeng-gaghabnida.
당신은 공 유이 어디 사는지 아니? 그 사람을 귀찮게하지 않을거야. 그냥 정중히 응시하고 행복한 생각을 생각합니다.

Would you please take me to the Coffee Prince?
nakeopi peulinseu e delyeoda ju sigess-eoyo?
나 커피 프린스에 데려다 주 시겠어요?

Yes, I know it’s a dump and the prices are outrageous.
ye, naneun-yugi algogagyeog bakk-ui il-ilago saeng-gaghago issseubnida.
, 나는 유기 알고 가격 밖의 일이라고 생각하고 있습니다.

My trip will be incomplete if I don’t drink a ten-dollar mocha where Eun Chan once stood.
naneun eunhye chan han beon seoseo jeon-en dalleo moka leul an masimyeon nae yeohaeng-eun bul-wanjeon hal su issseubnida.
나는 은혜 찬 한 번 서서 전엔 달러 모카를 안 마시면 내 여행은 불완전 할 수 있습니다.

Do they have some package where I could spend the night on the cable car, like in Boys over Flowers?
geudeul-eun naega kkoch eul tonghae sonyeon eseo wa gat-i keibeulka eseo bam-eul bonael su-issneun myeoch gaji paekiji ga issseubnikka?
그들은 내가 꽃을 통해 소년에서와 같이 케이블카에서 밤을 보낼 수있는 몇 가지 패키지가 있습니까?

Oh. There’s a fine for writing your name on the wall?
o. beolgeum-eun byeog-e dangsin-ui ileum-eul jagseonghagiwihan ga?
.벌금은 벽에 당신의 이름을 작성하기위한가?

Do you accept credit cards?
dangsin-eun sin-yong kadeuleul sayonghal su issseubnikka?
당신은 신용 카드를 사용할 수 있습니까?

“Hit me baby one more time...”
" jeoege agileul han beon deo nulleo ..."
"저에게 아기를 한 번 더 눌러 …"


How do I get this thing to work?
igeo eotteohge jagdong sikilyeomyeon eotteohgehaeya?
이거 어떻게 작동 시키려면 어떻게해야?

Is there any Bon Iver on here?
yeogie geogie bo Iver ibnikka?
여기에 거기에 보 Iver입니까?

I do a killer “Skinny Love.”
nan sal-injaga eotteohge “seukini salang-eul.”
난 살인자가 어떻게 "스키니 사랑을."

Or maybe “Mad World”?
animyeon "maedeu woldeu"?
아니면 "매드 월드"?

We’re supposed to sing happy songs?
ulineun haengbog nolae geo maj-ji?
우리는 행복 노래 거 맞지?

I’m sorry. I don’t know any.
mian haeyo. nan amu molla.
미안 해요. 난 아무 몰라.


Do you need any Western extras for the big scene?
dangsin-eun keun jangmyeon e daehan seoyang egseuteula ga pil-yohabnikka?
당신은 큰 장면에 대한 서양 엑스트라가 필요합니까?

In the right light, I’m almost blonde. And I speak English! Like a native! Because I am a native.
oleunjjog bich eseo, naneun geoui geumbal ibnida. geuligo yeong-eo ! neitibeu cheoleom! naneun gibon igi ttaemun-ibnida.
오른쪽 빛에서, 나는 거의 금발입니다. 그리고 영어!네이티브처럼! 나는 기본이기 때문입니다.

No, I wouldn’t be able to understand the director.
ani, naega gamdog eul ihae haji moshal geos-ibnida.
아니, 내가 감독을 이해하지 못할 것입니다.

Yes, I might visibly drool if Yoon Si Yoon gets too close to me.
yun si yun jeoege neomu gakkai dodalhamyeon ne, gasijeog deulul su issseubnida.
윤시 윤 저에게 너무 가까이 도달하면 네, 가시적 드룰 수 있습니다.

I’d probably be able to restrain myself from tripping the female lead, though.
ama hajiman, yeoseong-ui lideuleul baesin eseo jasin-eul eogje hal su-iss-eul.
아마하지만, 여성의 리드를 배신에서 자신을 억제 할 수있을.

Pretty please with sugar on top?
yeppeun sangdan-e seoltang iss-eulkkayo?
예쁜 상단에 설탕 있을까요?

Thank you! You won’t regret it.
gamsahabnida! dangsin-eun geugeos-eul huhoe haji anhseubnida.
감사합니다! 당신은 그것을 후회하지 않습니다.

Call me noona, Yoon Si Yoon.
jeo noona, yun si yun jeonhwa
noona, 윤시 윤 전화

Has anyone ever told you that you’re even prettier in person?
amudo dangsin-i silmul-i hwolssin deo yeppeo issdaneun mal haessnayo?
아무도 당신이 실물이 훨씬 더 예뻐 있다는 말 했나요?

Well, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Because you are.
eum, nado nollass-eo hal sueobsneun geos gat-ayo. dangsin-i ttaemun-ibnida.
, 나도 놀랐어 할 수없는 것 같아요. 당신이 때문입니다.


I know this is totally culturally insensitive, but it took me ten minutes to get these boots on. Do I really have to take them off?
i wanjeonhi munhwajeog-eulo munjaleul gubunhaji anhseubnida al-ayo,hajiman i bucheu leul eod-eul allyeo jwoss-eum haessda. jeongmal beosgo haeyahanayo?
이 완전히 문화적으로 문자를 구분하지 않습니다 알아요,하지만이 부츠를 얻을 알려 줬음했다. 정말 벗고해야하나요?

Can I try your shower?
dangsin-ui syawoleul sido hal su issseubnikka?
당신의 샤워를 시도 할 수 있습니까?

I think I would feel extra naked, standing there in the middle of the room shaving my legs.
naneun nae dalileul myeondohaneun moseub-eul sangsanghal su bang gaunde seo , nudeu chuga neukkil geos gat-ayo.
나는 내 다리를 면도하는 모습을 상상할 수 방 가운데 서, 누드 추가 느낄 것 같아요.

Do you have to put away the toilet paper first?
meonjeo hwajangsil hyujileul chiu haeyahanayo?
먼저 화장실 휴지를 치우해야하나요?

Wow. This table is really low.
wau. i teibeul-eun jeongmal najseubnida.
와우. 이 테이블은 정말 낮습니다.

My butt is numb.
eongdeong-ie gamgag-i issseubnida.
엉덩이에 감각이 있습니다.

I don’t think I can get up.
naneun il-eonal su issdago saeng-gag haji anhseubnida.
나는 일어날 수 있다고 생각하지 않습니다.

What the number for 119 again?
dasi 119 e daehan eotteon beonhoneun yo?
다시 119에 대한 어떤 번호는 요?


No, I don’t know Korean. I just watch a lot of dramas.
ani, naega hangug moleugess-eoyo. geunyang deulama leul manh-i bwa.
아니, 내가 한국 모르겠어요. 그냥 드라마를 많이 봐.

Please take care of me.
nal dolbwa jusigi balabnida.
날 돌봐 주시기 바랍니다.

* This post, like Google translate, is intended for entertainment purposes only. The author is neither legally nor morally responsible for anyone who attempts to use these phrases in the presence of someone who actually speaks Korean. You have been warned.